First time applications for jobless benefits in the United States rose just a little more than expected, last week, while consistent unemployment in America, overall, fell to a monumental 17-year low. This suggests, of course, that the labor market continues to strengthen. In addition, other data, released on Thursday, showed that factory activity—and specifically in the mid-Atlantic region—slowed down in April in the middle of recessed orders and shipments. And this is despite the fact that factories hired more workers and bumped up working hours in this market.
Specifically, initial unemployment benefit applications were up about 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 244,000 on the week (ending on tax day, April 15), according to the United States Department of Labor. This increase should be truly helpful after three straight weeks of decline. Overall, claims have held below the 300,000 threshold, a marker which is typically associated with the difference between a healthy and poor labor market—for 111 straight weeks! Again, this is the longest such run since 1970; a time when the labor market was significantly smaller.
Notably, then, the labor market is close to full employment as the employment rate falls to 4.5 percent, its lowest such measure in roughly a decade. As a matter of fact, employers added, on average, 175,000 jobs per month between January and March. It is important to note that the report over claims data regards only nonfarm payrolls during the April survey week, noting that claims fell by 17,000 between the survey weeks in March and in April.
This suggests, then, that job growth most certainly picked up this month: nonfarm payrolls were up 98,000, in March, though it is the fewest such increase since May of 2016. Some analysts comment that this type and rate of acceleration might be due to March’s weather-driven moderation, a variable which can greatly underscore the strong fundamentals of the economy in the face of slower growth.
But while initial claims are an important measure for the health of the labor market, we must also look at the continued claims. On Thursday, the claims report showed that the number of people who continue to receive aid—after their initial week—by nearly 50,000, to an adjusted 1.98 million (in the week ending April 8). Overall, the four week moving average of continuing claims fell by 2,000 to 2.02 million.